Q: How many wineries do you typically go to on a tour?
A: The number of wineries visited depends on many factors including how many tastings you do at each winery, distances between selected wineries, and how long you want to linger over that yummy picnic. Generally we would try to make it to four or more wineries, but the number and pace is up to you. We aren't going to rush you along just to get to a prescribed number of wineries.
Q: Do you only go to one area on a tour?
A: If you want to concentrate on one area, that's fine. If you want to sample wineries in different areas that may offer different types of wine, that's fine too. One great option is to stop at one or two wineries in one area, then move on to another area. This gives a break between tastings (your taste buds will thank you!), and provides the opportunity to try different wine styles.
Q: We have never wine tasted before. Can you help select where to go and what to do?
A: Absolutely! Tell us a little information about your group and what you like, and we will make some suggestions for areas, wineries, types of wine, etc.
Q: What's the difference between going to wineries and tasting rooms that are not at wineries?
A: Many wineries have tasting rooms at the winery, but some have dedicated tasting rooms away from the winery, in a more convenient location, such as near a major road or in a small town. I usually prefer to go to wineries themselves whenever possible, because I find it enjoyable to see the location, vines, and facility that produce the wine. However, some wineries can be pretty remote and that cuts down on the time available for tastings so, in some cases, an off-site tasting room may work just fine. Also, if you are interested in perusing shops as well as wine tasting, some small towns offer both in convenient proximity.
Q: Should we plan to buy wines during our tour?
A: That is up to you, but we hope so! Many of the wineries in the Sierra foothills only sell out of the winery (you can't get them anywhere else), or have very limited distribution. Since we are in the business of promoting the Sierra wineries, we hope you will take home some wines that you enjoy. I find that taking home some wines from where I visit provides an additional benefit….when you open the wine sometime in the future, you will remember the great time you had at the winery, and the people you shared it with. You just can't get that same experience from the wine shelves at the local mega-mart.
Q: Can I save money buying from the wineries directly?
A: Most of the time, yes. While this is not always true on single bottle purchases, wineries usually offer discounts when you buy more. For instance, you may save 15% - 20% if you by a case (12 bottles) and that gives you something to enjoy well into the future. Also, most wineries will allow a case or more to be combined for the tour group, so if each person in an 8-peson tour buys just two bottles, you still get the volume discount. Not surprisingly, the more you buy, the more you save per bottle.
Q: How expensive are the wines?
A: As you can imagine, the prices vary considerably depending on wine type, popularity, age, and other factors. In the Sierra foothills, wines typically range from the upper teens to just over $30 per bottle. There are, of course, exceptions in both directions and there are deals to be found if you know where to go.
Q: Are there any additional charges other than the tour, picnic costs, and optional gratuity?
A: (1) While many Sierra foothill wineries have historically offered free tastings, at least for a reasonable selection of their wines, this is constantly changing. Wineries in some areas all seem to charge a tasting fee, while in other areas it is rare. In most cases where a tasting fee is charged, they refund that fee if you buy wine. (2) Some wineries only offer a "reserved" tasting of their best (or at least most expensive) wines either to their club members, or for a tasting charge. Again, this is often refunded if you buy wines. (3) Some weekends there are special events that feature wineries in a specific area or County. There may be food served at each winery, live music, barrel tastings (tasting wine not yet bottled – not actually licking the barrels – yuck!), or other activities. These events usually have a ticket fee which provides a pass to all of the featured wineries. Costs for wine tasting, if applicable, and passes for special events, are not included in the tour costs.
Q: Can we combine wine tasting with other activities?
A: Sure! Although our main service is for wine tasting, we would be glad to stop for other activities in the area. These may include Apple Hill orchards during the fall; Christmas shopping in unique small towns; cavern tours; or other activities. Let us know what you are interested in.
Q: Can I bring the kids?
A: Wine tasting is an adult activity and children can be bored and disruptive in the tasting rooms. Although some folks do take their children along when wine tasting, we generally do not accept children on wine tasting tours. However, if you are combining your wine tasting with other activities, such as visiting Apple Hill, that may be arranged. Please email us so we can work out the details.
Q: So what is the big deal about wine tasting – I usually just get a box at the mega-store?
A: Actually a good question! Wine is whatever you want it to be. As an experience, it can be as complex or as simple as you want. You can appreciate the nuances of aromas, flavors, acid balance, tannins, etc., or you can simply say, "I like this one!" One thing is certain, at least for me, wine is an essential part of almost any great meal. When well paired, it not only complements the food, it makes it taste even better. Since you don't eat just one food, why drink only one type of wine? Wine tasting offers a way to experience many types of wines and how they can complement many different foods.
Q: What terroir is characteristic of the Sierra AVA that imparts unique components to the primary varietal wines and why is there almost no Pinot Noir?
A: Dude! You really need to take the tour!
Additional questions not answered here? Please contact us.